Funding a Trust: The Three Basic Methods

July 30, 2014

funding a trustSo, you just set up a revocable living trust.  The next step is funding your trust. How the trust is funded depends on the type of assets you want to transfer to the trust.  There are different methods for different types of assets.  Understanding the most common methods will make the process less complex.  Funding a trust is just as important as establishing the trust.  Your estate planning attorney can help.

Why do I need to fund my trust?

The goal of funding a Revocable Living Trust is to make sure your property is subsequently governed by the terms of the trust agreement.  Once that is accomplished, the trustee will be able to manage those accounts, in the event you become mentally incapacitated, or upon your death.  In order for a Revocable Living Trust to function as it should, you, as the trustor, must do more than simply sign the trust agreement.

What Does "Funding a Trust" Actually Mean?

After the trust agreement is signed and executed, you must then “fund” your assets into the trust. There are three general ways this is done, in order to properly fund a Revocable Living Trust.  Which method is required depends on the type of asset being funded.  The three methods are:

  • change of title or ownership
  • assignment of ownership rights
  • change of beneficiary

None of these methods are especially complicated.  However, the procedures must be followed in order to properly fund the trust.

Change of Title or Ownership

Assets such as bank accounts, investment and brokerage accounts (other than retirement accounts such as IRA or 401(k)); stocks and bonds held in certificate form or street form, and real estate, are funded into a Revocable Living Trust by simply changing the owner of the asset from your name into the name of the trust itself.  Some institutions may require only that the name on your account be changed; while others may require you to close the original account and open a new one in the name of your trust.

Assignment of Ownership Rights

If you have personal property that requires no certificate of legal title (e.g., Jewelry, artwork, antiques); personal loans, partnership and membership interests in limited liability companies, these types of assets are funded into a Revocable Living Trust by assigning ownership rights from your name into the name of the trust. This is done by creating a document called an assignment that the owner simply signs. Royalties, copyrights and patents can be assigned, but should also be changed in the office or agency that issued the certification.

Change of Beneficiary

Any asset that requires the naming of a beneficiary, like life insurance, certificates of deposit that will charge a fee for re-titling, and other such accounts, is not re-titled into the name of the Revocable Living Trust.  Instead, the primary beneficiary of these accounts or policies is changed to the trust.

What about property that I do not include in my trust?

Retirement plans such as IRAs, 401(k)s and the like are trusts in and of themselves. Under limited circumstances, a Revocable Living Trust may be designated as a beneficiary, but often there are adverse tax consequences. You will want to discuss the pros and cons with qualified counsel before naming a beneficiary on those assets. Simply put, any property that is titled in your personal name must be probated when you die.  If you overlook the importance of funding your Revocable Living Trust, your estate plan will not be as effective as you or your family anticipated when the trust was created, and the trust will not serve its purpose.
If you have questions regarding funding a trust, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd., either online or by calling us at (775) 823-9455.

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